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A picture taken in 1965 shows Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella waving in Algiers in 1965. The first president of independent Algeria, Ahmed Ben Bella, died on April 11, 2012 in Algiers at the age of 96, news agency APS reported, citing members of his inner circle. -AFP Photo

ALGIERS: Ahmed Ben Bella, Algeria's first president after the country became independent from France half a century ago, has died following an illness, state media reported on Wednesday.

He was 96 and died at his family home in the Algerian capital, according to the state-run news agency.

The son of peasant farmers who grew up near Algeria's border with Morocco, Ben Bella was one of the leading figures in the war for independence from France after World War Two, and spent several years in French prisons.

When France relinquished control of Algeria in 1962, Ben Bella became president but he was unseated three years later in an internal coup by Houari Boumediene, a fellow independence fighter who took over as head of state.

Ben Bella subsequently spent years in jail and exile before returning to Algeria in 1999.

His death coincides with the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence, a date which many Algerians see as bitter-sweet because they feel the aspirations of the country's founding fathers, embodied by Ben Bella, have not been fully realised.